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Hamas leader outlines ceasefire conditions in appeal to West

The head of Hamas' government in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, made a direct appeal to Western readers on Thursday to press for an end to Israel's military offensive, as he spelled out his conditions for a ceasefire.

world Updated: Jan 15, 2009 21:17 IST

The head of Hamas' government in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, made a direct appeal to Western readers on Thursday to press for an end to Israel's military offensive, as he spelled out his conditions for a ceasefire.

Writing in the Independent, Haniya said his Islamist movement would accept a ceasefire under "clear and simple" conditions -- the lifting of the blockades on Gaza, the opening of the crossings and Israel's complete withdrawal.

"There is only one way forward and no other. Our condition for a new ceasefire is clear and simple," he wrote.

"Israel must end its criminal war and slaughter of our people, lift completely and unconditionally its illegal siege of the Gaza Strip, open all our border crossings and completely withdraw from Gaza.

"After this we would consider future options."

In a clear appeal to the thousands of people worldwide who have protested against Israel's actions since it launched its military offensive on Gaza on December 27, Haniya reinstated Hamas' democratic credentials.

He rejected claims it was to blame for the conflict by refusing to renew a six-month ceasefire in December, saying Israel had made life in the Gaza Strip a "living hell" through economic "strangulation".

Haniya said Palestinians were "appalled that the members of the European Union do not view this obscene siege as a form of aggression".

He insisted Israel's offensive would not succeed, saying: "Ultimately, the Palestinians are a people struggling for freedom from occupation and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of refugees to their villages from which they were expelled.